Volume 95, Issue 57

Tuesday, January 15, 2002
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Breakbeating down the house

Orange County ripe with humour

Six degrees of Nurse Jane

Orange County ripe with humour

Photo by Gemma LaMana
Orange County

Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Kevin Kline

Directed By: Jake Kasdan

Three 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Writer

It would be unfair to dismiss Orange County as simply another teen movie.

Sure, the main characters are teens – as is the film's target audience – but this movie contains a unique element of sincerity that works well within the context of the narrative, setting it apart from other movies in the genre.

The movie follows Shaun Brumder (played by Tom Hanks' son, Colin), an ambitious high school senior fed up with his dysfunctional home life and in desperate search of a new identity.

One day, he seeks solace in the form of a novel by Stanford University professor Marcus Skinner (Kevin Kline) and decides immediately he is going to Stanford to be a writer.

But alas, his dim-witted guidance counsellor mails the wrong transcript, dashing Shaun's hopes of a bright future and committing him to a life of obscurity in Orange County, California.

His divorced parents are no help.

His mother, Cindy Brumder (Catherine O'Hara), is usually too drunk to worry about other people's problems, while his father, Bud (John Lithgow), wants him to forget all of his aspirations to be a writer. "A writer?," Lithgow's character asks in shock, "But you're not oppressed! You're not gay!"

Rather than simply picking up the telephone to fix his scholastic problem, Shaun decides to take the scenic route.

With the aid of his pothead brother Lance (Jack Black) and faithful girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk), Shaun embarks on a road trip to track down Stanford's dean of admissions.

Hanks has the difficult task of playing a "normal guy" and thus, runs the risk of being reduced to a secondary character in the eyes of the audience. Still, it's nice to see a "teen movie" protagonist to which the audience can relate.

Rather than some one-dimensional, Mercedes-driving GQ boy who's having difficulties with his uncommonly gorgeous girlfriend, Shaun is just your average guy and Hanks plays him well.

Black, who is the most agile, husky actor since Chris Farley, has the majority of laugh-out-loud moments. He spends most of the film in his underwear and has a way of delivering his lines that makes even the most ridiculous demand sound logical.

Director Jake Kasdan only unleashes Black when the timing is right and thus, he never wears out his welcome while on screen, leaving the audience in anticipation of his next grand entrance.

Unfortunately, the movie is marred by a few teen movie clichés, like the inclusion of the stereotypical bitch and the "whoa, dude" depiction of stoners.

All clichés aside, Orange County is still a much-needed addition to its genre. A surprisingly observant film, it captures the essence of teenage angst and the desire to "leave the nest." Furthermore, it conveys the idea that family and friends, not dollar signs, are what really matters.

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Copyright © The Gazette 2001